BY DAVID WEISS, PHOTO BY ROBERT DOWNS
From the early ’90s to the early ’00s, it was hard to be cooler than Eric Kretz, whose massive rock beats were a cornerstone of Stone Temple Pilots. The band released five great original albums, but coolness often showed some cracks: Singer Scott Weiland’s ongoing drug problems routinely made the band’s awesome arena rock the side story, and the band finally fell apart in 2002. Where do you go after the mega-superstardom that STP enjoyed? Kretz, now 39, reveals how he handled the emotional landmines of mega-fame, and is making a smooth transition to his next life.
DRUM!: How do you reconcile going from a successful rock band to being out of work?
Kretz: When you’re on top, everything comes a lot easier, but the band breaking up isn’t just “on” or “off” — it’s a gradual process. In our case, we had a lot of problems going on for five of the ten years. It was something we were continually dealing with. We had some amazing years and some bad years too.
DRUM!: Some people go into deep depression or turn to substance abuse when their bands break up.
Kretz: [laughs] The irony is that even when you’re at the top of success, you’re still depressed, and you very well may have alcohol and drug problems. It’s acceptable when you’re on top because you can get away with murder. As soon as your career is at a standstill, you become a loser because you didn’t do anything about it!
DRUM!: Do you miss the fame?
Kretz: It has its advantages and disadvantages. You surround yourself with a bubble, and you let very few people into it — [only those] you trust implicitly. You go through so much and try to stay sane while the machine is going. It goes so fast, and it’s hard to stay grounded when you’re constantly traveling from state to state, country to country, bus to airports. The people who take that path have a really hard reality ahead of them when the balloon loses its air.
DRUM!: Talk Show [the band Kretz and fellow STPs Dean and Robert DeLeo formed with singer Dave Coutts while Weiland was in drug rehab] was not as successful as STP. How did you move on from that?
Kretz: One thing we learned from doing the Talk Show record was the underlying current of the record company. It’s all about dollars and cents. So they’ll say, after all, an STP project is worth more than individual solo projects. They may say how hard they’re working something, but what they want is an STP album. It’s a lot easier to work, the numbers are bigger — you get a sobering look at the reality of the music business. When I tell younger bands the reality of how the machine works, they say, “That sucks!” but I say, “What are you going to do? Complain?” You deal with it.
DRUM!: After STP was totally done, you went into a new field and built your own recording studio [bombshelterstudios.com]. Why didn’t you join another group?
Kretz: One reason is that no matter who you are, there’s still going to be a high amount of drama. If there aren’t any problems or personality conflicts, then the band’s probably not very good. Rock and roll comes from the tension, from heads butting on certain topics. So if Led Zeppelin got back together, that would be something [for me] to shoot for.
DRUM!: Do you think you’ll ever be in another band?
Kretz: I’m playing in another band called Spiral Arms, but even with that it’s difficult to say how much touring I can do. I’m now rooted with the studio and other projects. It’s not something where I can be a full bandmember and be through all the ups and downs associated with bands touring the world.
DRUM!: Those are logistical reasons. Are there also emotional reasons why you might be hesitant to do that again?
Kretz: Performing is really, really fantastic. One of the greatest experiences in my life is being able to play in front of an audience with a great band, fireworks going off on my drums, hoping I can pull off certain parts. But the other side is touring five nights a week on the same album for a year. At this point in my life, do I want to hop into a van? It’s not as inspiring to me as producing great records.
DRUM!: Are there advantages to not being in such a famous band anymore?
Kretz: It’s great to rekindle all the good relationships with friends and family. When you’re traveling so much, everything’s just by phone and you miss your loved ones a lot because you’re gone so often. The disadvantage is it’s not always as exciting as when you’re in a different city every day where new things arise and there are new people to meet.
DRUM!: What’s your advice for drummers who have to deal with a band breakup?
Kretz: There really is no set advice. The cliché is that it’s like being married to three or four other guys, and it truly is. In some cases, the relationship is so much more personal than the marriages are. You just have to go see your Zen meditation teacher for that. He’ll tell you how to bend in the wind and be strong like a tree.